Liberal billionaire George Soros is flooding Virginia with hundreds of thousands of dollars in a last-minute effort to support Democratic prosecutors on the ballot on Nov. 5. The money is part of a liberal effort to reshape the state's criminal justice system: Progressive Democrats in several races have committed to reforms focused on reducing felony convictions.
Soros's targeted candidates have expressed opposition to the death penalty and prosecuting marijuana possession and seek to reduce incarceration rates by bringing lower-level charges. The billionaire's contributions to the candidates in all but one case are by far the largest they have received for their races.
Among the candidates Soros is lavishing with cash is Buta Biberaj, the Democrat running for commonwealth's attorney in Loudoun County, Va., who received a $260,000 contribution and $3,773 in digital ad productions on Oct. 29 from the Justice and Public Safety PAC, a federal political action committee financed by Soros. The PAC disbursed an additional $337,546 in additional funds for direct ad buys, mail, literature, postage, and polling from mid to late October, filings show. Biberaj, a defense attorney and substitute judge, has advocated for reducing incarceration by bringing lower-level charges.
Soros's committee also recently sent a $5,000 donation to Albemarle County commonwealth's attorney candidate Jim Hingeley, a lawyer whose campaign has also centered on using misdemeanor-level charges to lower incarceration rates.
Biberaj's campaign did not respond to an inquiry on the money. Hingeley's campaign could not be reached for comment.
The new contributions come on the heels of the $1 million the financier sent earlier this year to Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, a candidate for Arlington County commonwealth's attorney, and Steve Descana, a Fairfax County commonwealth's attorney candidate. Descana has expressed interest in putting together a coalition of progressive prosecutors to lobby for legislation if they are elected in a wave.
Soros has for years quietly funded prosecutor races as part of an effort to overhaul the criminal justice system. In late 2017, the financier co-hosted a panel at a gathering of the Democracy Alliance, the left's largest donor network, on ramping up district attorney races across the country, documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon showed.
One candidate backed by Soros in recent years was progressive Larry Krasner, a defense attorney who joked during his campaign in Philadelphia that he had built a career that made him completely unelectable, which included representing Occupy Philadelphia and suing a police department more than 75 times. Krasner ultimately received $1.7 million from Soros and won in a landslide.
Within days of taking over the position, Krasner purged dozens of prosecutors from the district attorney's office. The individuals terminated by Krasner were primarily from the homicide division, drug enforcement, and civil asset forfeiture units. The firings stalled court cases and led to a judge lambasting the moves after a murder trial was postponed.
One of Soros's few setbacks was in California last year. Genevieve Jones-Wright, who sat on the 2017 Democracy Alliance panel hosted by Soros, received $1.5 million in backing from the billionaire. Jones lost her election in San Diego by 28 points. A number of other candidates that he backed around California were also defeated.
Despite the hiccups in California, Soros in recent years has had success getting his preferred candidates elected. He has pushed money into races in states including Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico.